Air Force One touched down in Madison at 2:30 a.m., and a small group of people were lined up on State Street at 6, but the line has grown in the last hour. Madison gave Obama his largest crowd of the campaign when he was here a month ago, but he was here a month ago, and that was in the afternoon in the middle of campus. Now, it's early Monday morning, a time when young people are difficult to rouse from their warm beds, and, speaking of warmth, it's 30° in Madison right now. It was a long wait in the rain for the campus speech last month.
And people must remember that you don't just get to see Obama and that other guy you might care about. (Do the young folk care about seeing Bruce Springsteen?) You have to put up with the local politicos — the mayor and so forth. Meanwhile, it's all on TV.... and has been for months. (Years?) The reason to go is not so much to see, but to be seen. Lend your body to the photograph of Obama with the Wisconsin Capitol looming in the background. As it looms, you may wonder, where was Obama when you were marching and chanting and drumming last year protesting Scott Walker? Where was Obama last spring when you dragged Scott Walker into a recall election? He expressed tepid support from afar, but declined to set foot in Wisconsin, even when he was right at the border in Minneapolis/Chicago.
Ironically, that recall election forced Republicans to develop their ground game in Wisconsin, and that's exactly what may push Mitt Romney over the top tomorrow. Here's RNC chairman Reince Priebus, yesterday on "State of the Union":
[The Democrats] haven’t been able to win in Wisconsin for a long time. They claim that the Obama machine was out during the Walker recall. We basically crushed them in Wisconsin. I have seen firsthand the difference between Obama’s rhetoric on their ground game and the reality, and the reality is they’re not as good as they think they are....When you see that Wisconsin State Capitol in the background in today's Obama photo-ops, remember all that it symbolizes: an immense GOP victory in 2010, a huge and rude months-long uprising of the left end of the Democratic Party's target constituency (shunned by Obama himself) in 2011, and, in 2012, a decisive victory in the recall election for GOP Governor Scott Walker. What about all those Democratic voters splayed out around the GOP-dominated Capitol building? Hello? This is Madison, Wisconsin. The state Capitol building is always surrounded by Democrats. Every day, every month, every year. Madison does not control election outcomes in Wisconsin. In fact, there are an awful lot of people in Wisconsin whose idea of Madison is: This is not what Wisconsin looks like. And the people of Madison return the sentiment. We've been amusing ourselves with the saying "Madison is X square miles surrounded by reality" for a long, long time.
Obama will win by a landslide in Madison, but Madison — as we all know and have been telling ourselves for decades — is not reality.